Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Our Daughters, Through our Daughters: the Danger of Vicarious Living (Or, "Why our daughters REALLY dress like prosti-tots")

So, Target has come to our neighbourhood--and I don't even live in the 'burbs! I won't pretend I'm in two minds about it: I'm not. I think that a superstore within walking distance that carries cheap sponges, kitty litter, and other household items is something like a godsend. As much as possible, we avoid driving, so not having to cross a non-bikeable bridge and get on a highway to get to Target makes me smile. And I don't have any qualms about my non-local, superstore purchased sponges. Or kitty litter.

What I do have several qualms about, however, is Target's section of clothing "targeting" little girls. Here's some of their latest stock:

[Unfortunately, a computer virus erased the photos that I'd taken for this post before I got a chance to upload it. Imagine lots of ruffly black mesh, super-short skirts, and tops that barely meet skirt's waistline, and you're on the right track...]

The last picture is of a child who, as I was taking pictures of the clothing in question, began exclaiming about how "keeeeyute!!!" the clothing was. Unfortunately, since I was the only customer in earshot when the young lady began gushing about the clothing, I suspect that my own interest in it may have sparked hers. No doubt if a hip young woman such as myself deemed them to be photo-worthy, she had better take note. ;) Now, you may not be the prude I am: I would dress my daughters in potato-sack jumpers till they were twenty if I could! Perhaps you don't have a problem with microminis for tots ("But they have leggings!"), or suggestive black ruffly skirts, or lounge-singer sequined tops, or leopard print everything. Target certainly isn't the worst of it (apparently Abercrombie and Fitch has a padded bikini top for seven-year-olds?), but since I avoid malls like the plague, it's my only exposure. And every time I walk by this section, I'm shocked. Really? I wonder. Can this really be how parents are choosing to dress their six- to twelve-year-olds? And then, just out of curiosity, I went to the toddler section. Where I found this:

[Once again, no photo thanks to the virus that attacked my computer. Picture a teeny-tiny black mesh "skirt"--and I use the word loosely.]

Size 3T. My (little) four-year-old and (big) two-year-old wear this size. But they sure won't be wearing this...thing. And I'll nix the padded bikini tops while I'm at it. Even if they beg, even if they plead, and yes, even if all the girls they know are dressing this way. (Fortunately, at this point, I have friends who share similar values about clothing and a similar distaste for the sexualization of little girls, and my girls are young enough that their friends are the children of my friends. I know that in a few years, I'll likely not be so lucky.)

Even if you don't think the Target clothing is as atrocious as I do, still you must admit that many of the current trends in girl's fashion sexualizes little girls. Now maybe I'm being naive, but I highly doubt that little girls want to dress "sexy" to please boys. Certainly, it has something to do with their female peers. But the fact that many mothers endorse or at least allow it is also telling. Here's the question: Why on earth would any mother sanction and even support such a thing?

My theory is that it all has to do with vicarious living. It's hard to argue that many mothers don't, to a certain extent, live vicariously through their children, especially their daughters. Think of the character played by Tea Leoni in the movie Spanglish. A fitness buff herself, she practically forces her daughter to lose weight by buying her new clothes that are two sizes too small! Unfortunately, we mothers frequently do similar things to our children (albeit often tamer versions) in just about every area of life: spiritual life, educational life, social life, food, fitness and fashion, and the list goes on. (And of course it's problematic in every arena, but lets stick to clothing here.) I suspect that mothers who allow their daughters to don "sexy" clothing are falling prey to the allure of seeing their flesh and blood look so damn hot!

Think about it for a minute. Supermodels and prepubescent girls often have one thing in common: they are skin and bones. Clothes made for supermodels look "good" on young girls who have no breasts, no belly and no booty. Grown women usually have all of the above in varying degrees and therefore look varying degrees of ridiculous in clothing made for supermodels... But their daughters don't. And so they let them dress this way--maybe even encourage them to. But it's not right. It amounts to pimping your own daughter to buy yourself an ego fix.

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